What Can I do with a Degree in Nursing Informatics?

A degree in nursing informatics can open up new opportunities for an RN. Informatics nurse specialists have multiple roles. They are often the go-between between the nursing staff and IT. According to the University of Maryland, jobs in nursing informatics fall in two broad categories: applied/professional and expert/ liaison roles. The applied roles are the more “techie” ones. Some informatics nurse specialists are on the team that develops new software systems. Specialists in the liaison role, meanwhile, may do needs assessment, select appropriate systems, and prepare training materials.

Nursing informatics is generally not a person’s first job. Most nursing informatics programs are designed for experienced RNs. Some graduate programs, though, will allow people with other degrees and healthcare backgrounds to simultaneously pursue RN credentialing and advanced coursework in nursing informatics. Here’s a look at some of the career options.

Super User or System Administrator

A lot can go wrong when setting up new systems! That’s why the super user role is so important. Super users try out new systems and troubleshoot issues. Some nurses volunteer as super users to get a foot in the informatics door. Others manage to make a career out of being the technological go-to person. Duties can include configuring new systems and managing databases and files.

Clinical Nursing Informatics Specialist

Nursing informatics specialist is an umbrella term, used to denote multiple roles. A nursing informatics specialist often works as part of an interdisciplinary team. She may be part of the team designing and implementing systems for Electronic Medical Records (EMR) or other health systems. If she has significant coursework in programming and software development, she can be a nurse programmer, helping to create software for her fellow nurses. Conversely, her role may be to select systems and help implement them. The latter position may be advertised as nurse liaison.

Nursing Informatics Educator

A nursing informatics educator may be responsible for making sure that all the nurses on the floor are well versed in the latest technology. This could mean preparing educational materials and introducing a group of nurses to new systems for electronic health records or coding. It can also involve ensuring that digital immigrants have foundational computer skills.

A nursing educator may also be a faculty member at a college or university. Nursing informatics educators at this level most often hold a Ph.D. Nursing informatics educators at this level educate students in entry level nursing programs as well as high level programs on informatics in nursing. In the case of Terri Schmitt, Ph.D., APRN, FNP-BC and faculty member at Southwest Baptist University, students also learn about using social media in nursing.

Nursing Informatics Specialist (Vendor)

Not all informatics nurses work for hospitals or other patient care facilities. Some are employed by vendors. In order to represent technological systems used in nursing and health care, a person needs to understand more than just the technology ”“ he or she also needs to understand the needs of the end user. An experienced nurse is in a position to do just that.

Nursing Informatics Consultant

A consultant travels from facility to facility, helping with implementation of new systems. Duties could include assessing workflow and protocols and finding technical solutions or recommending best practices. Jobs go by various names, include health IT consultant. In some cases, a nurse will be competing against specialists with backgrounds in other health fields, for example, physician assistants.

Health Information Specialist

A degree in informatics is a little different than a degree in health information as there is more of an emphasis on the systems themselves (as opposed to the data that passes through them). Still, a typical health information program will include coursework in data ”“ and this can make a nurse more competitive for health information management positions. Positions like electronic health records manager frequently advertise for either an experienced RN or a degreed HIM professional. Some positions favor candidates with a combined information/ informatics background ”“ someone who can manage data and also troubleshoot technological issues.

Out in the real world, roles are varied. Graduate programs vary, too, in how they approach nursing informatics. Some focus more on the people systems, others more on the technological ones. Others give greater weight to management of health data.